Blindspot: By a Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in Disguise
Academics Kamensky and Lepore have produced a deliciously entertaining novel of pre-Revolutionary Boston. By turns bawdy, poignant, satirical, and patriotic, it is an energetic and enlightening story. Not only is painter Stewart Jameson in debt to an enemy, he’s desperate to find his friend, the brilliant Dr. Alexander—a freed black transported to America and enslaved.
Jameson arrives as Massachusetts is erupting with frustration at British rule, and promotes himself as a face-painter. Miss Fanny Easton, daughter of a wealthy and prominent colonial, was cast off after bearing her drawing master’s illegitimate child. Disguising herself as a lad, re-naming herself Francis Weston, she becomes Jameson’s apprentice, astonishing him with her drawing and painting skills and inspiring a passionate affection that he dreads but does not deny. In letters to her confidante, she frankly reveals her feelings for her master and the hazards of her all-too-successful impersonation of a young man.
The couple’s solvency seems assured as Boston’s prominent residents line up to have their portraits painted, but when the most prominent of all is murdered they unite to find the culprit. In the process, Fanny makes certain unsavory discoveries about her parent and her past, while Jameson must contend with an altered and decidedly damaged Dr. Alexander, determined to use his superior intellect to solve the crime. For his apprentice’s sake, and his own, he also resolves to pack Easton off to London to study with the great Joshua Reynolds.
In creating this graphic and vivid version of colonial Boston—people, professions, politics—the authors have also provided lovers of historical fiction with a highly entertaining story, brimming with style and substance. A rollicking good read!